RAWALPINDI: In what is a blow for residents of perhaps the only district in the province without a district council, the provincial government has decided against conducting elections of the council because so little time is left in the tenure of the incumbent local government in the province.
Local union council (UC) chairmen, meanwhile, say it was imperative to elect a chairman for the district council for even a short while if it helps the development of the area.
The Rawalpindi district is the only one in the entirety of Punjab’s 36 districts which still have not gone to the polls for electing a district council chairman, vice chairman and electing public representatives on reserved seats. Moreover, the Kotli Sattiyan tehsil of Rawalpindi is the only union council in the entire province which did not elect a UC chairman.
Elections were held in 114 UCs of Rawalpindi District, except for Kotli Sattiyan. However, elections for the district council could not be held for the past three years owing to a political spat between the Punjab government and former interior minister.
Instead, the deputy commissioner of the district council was appointed as the caretaker administrator and is now likely to remain in that position to oversee matters until the next local government elections.
The absence of a district council chairman or the elected district council has affected civil development work in the district, particularly in the rural areas of the district.
Hothla UC Chairman Raja Amir Mazhar said that depriving the district of an elected district council was sheer injustice with the area.
“There are district councils for each district in the country, except for Rawalpindi,” he said, adding that the past Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were both responsible for the current situation in the district.
Refuting the government’s excuse that short time is left before fresh local government elections in the province, Mazhar pointed out that constitutionally there was still a year left in the next elections.
He urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to immediately issue a schedule for district council elections in the district.
Rehmatabad UC Chairman Taj Abbasi said that not conducting the district council elections was sheer injustice with locals and had brought the process of developing the district to a screeching halt.
He recalled that it took orders from the Supreme Court to force the provincial government to hold local government elections in the province in the first place.
“We, the elected UC chairman, have been deprived of any powers first by the previous PML-N government and now by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government,” he said, lamenting that they will probably complete their tenure without having any powers.
He urged the apex poll body of the country to take notice of this issue. And hold elections for the district council chairman, vice chairman and reserved seats, even if it is for a short time so that development work can be kick-started in the district.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2019.